I can't remember when I started using dryer sheets instead of liquid fabric softener. But the first time one of these gossamer fiber fragments floated out of a basketful of towels I said to myself, hmmm, I bet you could do something with those.
|"Piterskoie Okno/St. Pete Window 13,"
by Natalya Aikens
A lot of other fiber artists were way ahead of me, dyeing, painting, stamping, and printing, and stitching them into art.
Perhaps no one has made more beautiful use of dryer sheets than Natalya Aikens, who wrote about her digital art printing and painting process for Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. When I saw the article I thought, wow, what a way to upcycle. She begins by altering photographs digitally and ends with handstitching. The combination of digital photo art, fiber art, and paint produces an ethereal mixed-media photo collage. But it's so easy to do.
Printing on Dryer Sheets
1. Choose a photograph. I use my own and play with it in Photoshop, cropping it, using filters, generally achieving a sharp, crisp image that I like. Alternatively, you can draw the image you like and scan it into your computer.
2. Select used dryer sheets for printing. Your printer will like you much more if you choose sheets that have crisp edges. Smooth them flat and then iron them to a freezer-paper sheet cut to size (8½" x 11" for most household printers).
3. Print your photograph. If you're printing more than one sheet, feed the sheets through the printer one at a time. Once your sheet is printed and dry, peel it off the freezer paper. Now you can use it in your art as is or paint it first.
|"Piterskoie Okno/St. Pete Window 10,"
by Natalya Aikens
Natalya notes that in her experience, printing on conventional dryer sheets doesn't necessarily require pre-treatment with a medium like Golden's Digital Ground (Clear). But, it all depends on your time frame. If you don't pre-treat, it will take days or even weeks for the ink to dry completely. With pre-treating, the waiting time is 24 hours to a few days. However, pre-treatment will usually make the dryer sheet stiffer and more opaque.
You can experiment with dyeing or painting the sheets first, mounting them on different fabrics or papers before stitching, or adhering them to a substrate in a different way. You might also want to try different brands of sheets to see how they look or feel after washing and see what happens when you wash them several times.
I love it when you can be frugal, recycle, and make beautiful artwork at the same time, don't you? For more on Natalya's technique, get ahold of the May/June 2009 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.
This and other back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors are now available as digital downloads—even the sold-out print issues.
P.S. I confess I have so many leftover dryer sheets I use some for dusting. But there are plenty more available for art-making. How about you? How do you use your used dryer sheets? What do you make with them?